Accused cabinet minister to address public

By Shannon Jenkins

March 3, 2021

A sample of the potential challenges that lie ahead for Australian governments and policy makers in the light of IPCC 6.
A sample of the potential challenges that lie ahead for Australian governments and policy makers in the light of IPCC 6. (Leonid Andronov/Adobe)

The cabinet minister accused of raping a then-16-year-old in 1988 is expected to make a public statement today.

On Tuesday evening the ABC reported that the minister will likely reject the allegations at a press conference, and won’t step down.

The minister, who on Tuesday was urged by former prime minister Malcolm Turnbull to “out himself”, has reportedly sought advice from defamation lawyer Peter Bartlett.

His appearance will come a week after the prime minister, Labor senator Penny Wong, Greens senator Sarah Hanson-Young, and Liberal MP Celia Hammond received an anonymous letter outlining the allegations, and more than a year after several politicians first learned of the alleged incident.

The woman who accused the minister took her own life in June 2020. She had gone to the police before she died, but had not made a formal statement.

New South Wales police on Tuesday said its investigation into the matter had closed due to “insufficient admissible evidence”.

In an article for The Mandarin‘s sister publication Crikey earlier this week, the former lawyer of the woman who was allegedly raped, Michael Bradley, noted that it was “theoretically possible” for a criminal rape prosecution to proceed despite the woman’s death.

“As a reality, that won’t happen,” he wrote.

Read more: Opinion: the taint will not go away. Accused minister must stand aside

Bradley called for the accused minister to step down while the matter is formally addressed, and for the prime minister to institute an independent inquiry into the matter.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has faced several calls for an independent inquiry to be conducted into the allegations, but has repeatedly rejected them, insisting that it was “a matter for the police”.

According to the ABC, the government is hopeful that the accused minister’s appearance before the public will put an end to the matter.

Speaking to reporters on Wednesday morning, Labor leader Anthony Albanese said the matter would require “further leadership and action” from the government, noting that the issue wouldn’t just “go away”.

“I think people will be looking for further responses beyond any statement that might be made today by the minister,” he said.

“I was very disappointed by Scott Morrison’s statement yesterday where he said that he hadn’t read the documentation that was forwarded to him by the woman who was at the centre of the allegation who then took her own life by her friends.”

The events have come just weeks after former ministerial staffer Brittany Higgins alleged that she was sexually assaulted by a colleague in former defence industry minister Linda Reynolds’ office in 2019. Since then, three other women have come forward with complaints against Higgins’ alleged rapist.

The allegations have sparked several reviews into the culture and workplace processes at Parliament House.

More to come…

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